July 28, 2021

How Inclusion and Diversity Drive Cengage’s Culture - Interview with Kristy Lilas

Sr. Director of Inclusion and Diversity, Kristy Lilas, recently took over the Cengage LinkedIn to share insight into I&D at Cengage and how it shapes our business, culture and products. Previously having worked in our operations and technology organizations since 2016, Kristy took on her new role leading I&D efforts at Cengage at the start of 2021. Even prior to her current role, Kristy played an integral role in shaping our culture. She co-founded our first employee resource group, PRIDE, which empowers and supports LGBTQIA+ employees and Allies of all backgrounds. She also serves as Boston Head of House, leading cultural initiatives for our Boston hub since 2019.

Read on to hear more from Kristy about her personal journey, her goals for Cengage, and our company culture.

Why Work in I&D?

“Growing up, I became aware of how our identities and experiences affect the way we interact with the world, and how the world interacts with us. This drove me to study topics relating to culture and society in school, and led to the decision to focus my career in education – where I could help drive cultural change through learning.

My belief in the power of learning from both the world and each other drives my passion for I&D. Engaging with others is essential to be successful at what we do, and I&D is core to building successful relationships. Who works best when they feel undervalued or excluded? I&D isn't about some of us; it’s about all of us.

In the workplace our identities have been treated as something that had to be muted – because it was not applicable to our work, or worse, because it was considered a distraction. But diversity challenges us to approach each other and our work with an open mind. We have to inspire leaders to recognize the value of diversity in their workplaces, the same as they do their investments, partnerships and portfolios. Diversity powers inclusion, which allows us to be better colleagues and people.”

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The Goal for I&D at Cengage

“Our goal for I&D at Cengage is two-fold: to have a community of people who recognize the true value in each other’s unique experiences and perspectives, which increases feelings of belongingness, disempowers bias and makes us work better together. And secondly, to enable that community to use their sphere of influence to create change: both in the learning solutions we develop, and in our broader business and community engagement.

To do this, my first six months in the role has been focused on understanding where we are across the business, creating greater transparency and collaborative opportunity across teams, and setting foundations in certain areas to instigate change in faster and more sustainable ways going forward. Additionally, we’ve launched a Governance Board to oversee our efforts and measure their impact and success over time, and an Advisory Council to develop our long-term strategies and integrate them into our overarching business priorities. We're also focused on cultivating employee growth opportunities, diversifying our talent pipeline, and launching a supplier diversity program.”

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Cengage’s Culture

“Our employees are purpose-driven. We benefit from having a company that works toward a clear mission of social impact through education, which attracts people who are committed to working for a greater good. This carries over into our culture in really amazing ways.

Our company Ethos and Credo are the foundation of our differentiated culture. We are accountable to and for each other, and with that, transparency and openness are core to how we operate. The ‘Be Candid’ component of our Ethos sets the tone in our culture in a way that enables other parts of our Ethos, including ‘Embracing the Unknown' so that we all prioritize continual learning, and ‘Setting the Bar Higher’ to always strive to grow and be better.

People have shared how our culture of inclusivity is the reason they stay in their jobs here at Cengage, others have shared how our commitment to I&D has empowered them in both their professional and personal lives to be more open and authentic about their identities, needs and experiences. Those are some powerful outcomes.”

I&D in Education

“At Cengage, we recognize the power of learning, and the important responsibility we have in educating the next generation.

As a society, the last year has been a catalyst to growing and necessary conversations around the importance of inclusivity and diversity in education. We’ve seen these conversations become deeper, and in many instances more nuanced and more acute. Recent events have spotlighted areas where we as a company, and as an industry, can, should and will do better. 

For us at Cengage, this has reinforced the need for us to continue evaluating how we develop education content, especially in areas like history, sociology, and other content that directly impacts how our learners see the world around them. We have an immense responsibility in developing quality learning materials that are inclusive. These efforts are driven by three core design principles across all our businesses:

  • Recognizing and addressing implicit bias in our products
  • Being intentional in our learning design and content creation
  • Ensuring our content reflects diverse sources of scholarship, research and authorship.”


To learn more about inclusion and diversity at Cengage, please visit our website here.